Thanks to Quod for bringing attention to this. According to a report today in the Guardian, the British Museum has examined the site of the ancient city of Babylon, which has been used by the US and Polish military as a depot. John Curtis of the museum's Near East department found:

"...cracks and gaps where somebody had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate. He saw a 2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches driven into ancient deposits. Vast amounts of sand and earth, visibly mixed with archaeological fragments, were gouged from the site to fill thousands of sandbags and metal mesh baskets. When this practice was stopped, large quantities of sand and earth were brought in from elsewhere, contaminating the site for future generations of archaeologists."

It would be hard not to agree with the parliamentarian-archaeologist Lord Redesdale, quoted in the report -- "Outrage is hardly the word, this is just dreadful."

Low-ranking reservist convicted in torture conspiracy

Charles Graner has been convicted of five counts related to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. T.A. Badger's AP report calls this low-ranking soldier "the reputed ringleader" of the conspiracy to violate US and international law. Is this meant to imply that ringleaders Gonzales, Rumsfeld and Bush can expect to be let off the hook?


The blog equivalent of a chain letter?

Matt Yglesias is inviting whoever is looking for another way to put off getting to work to open up their computer’s music player, hit “random shuffle,” and list the first ten songs that come up. What the heck:

David Bowie, “Somebody up there likes me”
Ana Pupedan, “Fantovski dan”
Equipe 84, “Ho in mento te”
Hayseed Dixie, “You shook me all night long”
Oružjem Protivu Otmičara, “Kasnim”
Cibo Matto, “About a girl”
Bran Van 3000, “Montreal”
Zabranjeno Pušenje, “Pišonja i Žuga”
Kirsty MacColl and Billy Bragg, “Darling, let’s have another baby”
Almamegretta and Massive Attack, “Karmacoma”

The idea may be that this is supposed to show something about the person involved. I shudder at the thought.

Weekly commentary (not mine)

It is always a treat to hear Svetlana Lukić's weekly commentary on B92. In this week's, she sums up the past year, but it is all there in the conclusion:

"Does it happen to you sometimes that you see yourself on the streets of Belgrade on 5 October, but this time as a caricature?"

I do wonder how many people will answer yes.

Coffee pot design?

Over at Left2Right, Don Herzog has a substantial commentary and response to an interview on CBN (don't tell me you haven't heard of it? the Christian Broadcasting Network?) with the faith-based literary critic Jim Nelson Black, author of Freefall of the American University. The book argues about American universities that "most are nothing but Leftist indoctrination factories, filling students' minds with politically correct and often morally repugnant mush." Apparently he goes beyond the standard bias, selection of amusing elective courses, and so on, and also promises to show "how colleges and universities have virtually eliminated study of the history of various sciences -- in order to conceal their Christian roots" and the disturbing spread of "homosexuality, cremation, and coffee pot design."

Oh, and did I mention that the faithful are offered voyeuristic conjecture about what Dr Black imagines students' sexual practices to be like? I shouldn't forget to mention that sort of thing. But let's hear a bit from the author himself, courtesy of CBN:

"What they are not teaching are the things you and I learned at college. They are not teaching freshman English nor American history, nor basic mathematics and science. They are teaching radical courses about sexuality, and benign courses on vampires and the undead. That is actually the name of one course."

"In fact, Marxism is the controlling doctrine on the university campus today. Capitalism is negative to most university professors; I would say 60 percent of them, as Marxism was 30 years ago."

"As many as 70 percent of college students are sexually active today; as many as half of those, or more, have STD's and many of them don't know it."

"Even at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and other universities that I talk about in this book, and interviews I have done on those campuses, ‘hooking up’ is the new fad. That means having sex with anybody, any time, and you try not to know the name of the person with whom you’re having a relationship."

Dr Black must work at a very interesting university where there are not literature, history, mathematics or science courses, and where he has medical information about students that they do not have themselves! I wonder which university that is?

Of archival interest, perhaps

It looks as though that small crowd of people who draw on Balkan politicians' memoirs of the recent past are getting a new source to consider. Biljana Plavšić will soon be coming out with Svedočim, her memoir direct from the Hinseberg prison in picturesque Sweden. Portions are being published as a feuilleton in Nezavisne novine. The first two installments are online already.

I've got no assessment, since I haven't read it yet.

Desperate cry for help

My cousin is coming this weekend, and I want to make him a nice veal paprikas, with daragaluske. Any tips, tricks, recipe suggestions?

Update: I'm happy to report that the borjupaprikas was mightily enjoyed by all, in no small measure because of the very fine borju provided by John Dewar & Co. Quality Meats.

Is this a recipe?

Thanks (I guess) to Unfogged.

1. Choose a minority group
2. Add a bad idea

The result: you may get the Bush administration. Or you may get this particular meshugas.


The Templars flutter again

From the text of a leaflet distributed today in the otherwise really very pleasant city of Split, signed by "the Templars," as reported by Index:

Ask yourselves why all Serbs, Muslims, atheists, autonomists and ultraleftists so passionately support Mesić?!
Why do all of the destroyers of Croatian traditions, aided by various cults and associations of homosexuals and prostitutes support Stefan [that's a sic, but I didn't translate the connotation of the word they used for "homosexual"--EDG] and his Milka!
Are you a part of that crowd!!!?
If you are not, come out for the elections and show it!!!
Do not allow the further degradation of the Croatian freedom-loving, traditional and Catholic values!

I've never heard of this group "the Templars," but anyone can have suspicions:

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Roger Moore as Simon Templar in the classic television series The Saint.

Update: Wow, Drax has some new details about this incident! It involves planes, a former high-ranking military officer, transport authorities ....

This was sent with the title, "Politika rides again"

Awww. A story of linguistic chauvinism to melt anyone’s heart. The brilliant DP sends along an article from Tuesday’s Politika featuring a young girl from Nikšić who sets off for a visit to unknown Johannesburg with a copy of Politika in her hand, certain that ”they will recognize me by Politika, because that is where I learned to care for the beauty and feel the spirit of the Serbian language.”

What brought the poor lass to the point of maintaining an inefficient long-distance paper route was the “elimination of the Serbian language” in her school (the school authorities decided to offer instruction in Montenegrin, which everybody knows is completely incomprehensible to the Serbian speakers of Nikšić). So she told her mother, "Mama, I want to go to Trebinje. There they study Serbian and speak Serbian.” She was inspired to celebrate the great educational tidings in poesy, which I permit myself the modest liberty of translating here:

I only write with Serbian letters
that Vuk gave to us all
I only inhale with a Serbian soul
It will be so as long as I am around…

(It's a bad translation, so let me give the original: „Само српска слова пишем/што Вук нам је дао свима/само српским духом дишем/биће тако док ме има...”)

Who would not be inspired? A rich guy from Johannesburg was inspired to invite the girl over to observe as the words of her verse were engraved on the wall of the Serbian school there.

To steal another paper’s promotional slogan, to može samo Politika. But do you also get the impression that there are a lot of rich guys with too much time on their hands?

Ohio on the Neretva

Novi List is reporting on charges of election fraud in the first round of the Croatian presidential election. According to the article, in two places in Hercegovina, in Čapljina and Orašje, votes were counted from people who had died and from people who did not turn up at the polls (it is likely that there were some people who fell into both categories). Although the deadline for appeals of the election results has passed, it is not too late for criminal charges of election fraud to be filed.

It looks as though it is possible that fraud in Hercegovina might have changed the results of the first round. According to the article, Stjepan Mesić came 14,005 votes short of winning in the first round. He received 4, 825 votes from Hercegovina, while Jadranka Kosor received 36, 783 votes of the 54,112 people who voted there.

Update: Two developments. The election monitoring group GONG has filed criminal complaints related to the election fraud. Jadranka Kosor was asked by Dražen Ciglenečki of Novi List how it felt to be the candidate whom dead people prefer, whereupon her bodyguard attacked the TV cameraperson who was filming the exchange. No bananas are believed to have been involved.

Update2: Drax has a pretty persuasive argument that none of this enhances the image of GONG, which failed to spot the fraud in time and which emerged with inaccurate projections of the results.

Update3: Count on Stipe Mesić to clear things up. He states, "I don't believe that dead people voted over there, but somebody certainly voted in their place."

Update4: It would be interesting for someone to run the crosstabs and see whether the inclination of a dead person to vote for HDZ correlates in any way with the historical period in which they lived.

So many great photos today!

This one is from the protest of the veterinarians of Zemun, in Danas.

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I took my doggie to the vet today, so naturally I am quite sympathetic with their plight.

Mystery reader, predstavite se

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Paviljon Veljković in Belgrade

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The "Paviljon" restaurant in Zagreb


Language to fit your technology

It really is a challenge to find neologisms in every language to match the new terms that grow up around technologies. During our brief time in Hungary, I was interested (and mildly relieved) to find that many of the words for agricultural products and ordinary household items were the same as those used in Serbia, and that most of these were borrowed from Turkish. I was also delighted to find that the old Slavic softveraš has the Hungarian equivalent szoftveres.

But here is one that I had yet to see. In an article from B92 about Microsoft issuing a new patch for defects in its operating systems, we read, "Kompanija Microsoft je u utorak ponudila nove zakrpe..." Folksy, I like it.

Fries with that?

Thanks to Bora Ž. for this photo! I have meant for a while to post something about Professor Ante Kolega's project to preempt a McDonald's takeover of the Dalmatian tourist feeding sector by launching his version of authentic Mediterranean fast food, Srdela Snack. Personally I like Professor Kolega's idea -- a nice bit of fish with salad and white wine for only a little more than your typical fast food product. But as this photo from Kosovo suggests, the rush to globalised low cuisine might just be irresistible.

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Something tells me that this particular spot might not be observing all the terms of the franchise agreement, though.

Adventures in law enforcement

It is not clear that the ban on smoking in enclosed public places has met with universal welcome in Italy. But regardless of whether you support the new regulation or not, you have to agree that the vigilante enforcement measures described in this BBC report are, ah, worthy of attention:

"A glamorous woman dressed in a white uniform and equipped with a water backpack bearing a smoke-busting logo twirls for the cameras. Then out into the street they march, a gaggle of journalists and interested onlookers following Italy's new anti-smoking Pied Piper through the bustling centre of Rome's night life.

'In here!' shouts the smokebuster, pausing outside the door. 'I can see smokers!'

They burst through into a tiny bar, which turns out to be more of a strip joint.

The semi-naked bodies gyrating on the tables do not take too kindly to being sprayed with water by the smokebuster. She retreats under chants of 'Legalise everything now! More cigarettes! More drugs!' from the bare table-dancing smokers."

Any criminologists out there who want to speculate on whether the water backpack method is likely to enhance compliance?


Adventures in reconstruction and redevelopment

According to a report by Andrew Bounds in the Financial Times, the European Agency for Reconstruction is subject to an investigation for mismanaging its programs for reconstruction in the Balkans. It seems that “a fifth of the contracts signed by the European Agency for Reconstruction in 2003 have ‘anomalies’.”

Among the principal “anomalies” are charges of bribery of an EAR employee by Siemens and Lurgi Lentjes in order to win a €49.8m contract to renew a power station in Belgrade in 2002. The article reports that “the employee, who allegedly received money and a luxury car, was suspended and then resigned. His exact whereabouts are now unknown and European parliamentarians believe he has moved to Africa.”

These sorts of stories do quite a lot to help those political forces which oppose greater cooperation with Europe, and to discourage people who want to accomplish worthwhile things in a legitimate and honest way.

After Ceca, Ceca

I will be the first to say that I expected more from the mighty BBC than an article of vague generalities and quotations from two sources. But Matt Prodger's short piece does have a couple of delicious lines from Ceca.

First, explaining her domestic popularity: "Greeks listen to Greek music. Italians listen to Italian music. And Serbs listen to me. It's to do with national identity. Britney Spears and Madonna could never be a success here like I am."

Second, waving aside any association with the things she is associated with: "I don't know what they're talking about. I don't sing songs about nationalism. I only sing about love. And besides, Milosevic has been gone for four years, and I'm still here."

Very nice. Now go listen instead to "Uslovna sloboda" by Jarboli.

Progressive witchcraft

I'm quite taken by Kathy Paur's summary of the liberal values of the Harry Potter book series, which she presents together with some other takes on childrens' literature over at BOPnews:

"Harry Potter is ostensibly a self-reliant individual taking on the worst evil-doer of all – but the Potter subplots hold significant populist lessons: Pure-blood elitists are mean people you wouldn’t want to befriend. Discrimination against lower socioeconomic classes (chiefly house-elves, goblins, centaurs, and were-wolves) is not only immoral but may have disastrous consequences (the Order of the Pheonix worries that the goblins will support Voldemort if he promises not to treat them like second-class citizens). The media (The Daily Prophet) can be bought by those in power and used to mislead and endanger the citizenry. An ineffective government (the Ministry of Magic) which isn’t committed to the well-being of the people is more than capable of ignoring real threats and punishing whistle-blowers. And free, high-quality education is wonderful fun."

There is an interesting discussion developing in the comments too. On the other side, it seems that there are people on the right willing to run with all sorts of inflated or satirical claims about the books promoting the spread of the dark arts.

The art of the bad deal

Anyone who wants to build up an art collection in a hurry may want to get in touch with the Agency for Bank Receivership and Liquidation in Serbia. B92 reports today that they are preparing an auction of 73 works of art from the collections of failed banks, whose value has been confirmed by the staff of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade. On sale on 30 January will be works by Safet Zec, Radomir Reljić, Aleksandar Cvetković, Ljubica Sokić, Jovan Bjelić, Peđa Milosavljević, Mića Popović, Olja Ivanjicki, and Milan Marinković-Cile.

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I doubt very much that the above painting, "Evropa terra incognita" (Radomir Reljić, 1968) is on sale, since it is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

One damn dime for your thoughts

Most of you have probably received by now this message going around the net calling for 20 January to be observed as "Not One Damn Dime Day." The last one that I got bore the (electronic) signature of the venerable TV journalist Bill Moyers, though I doubt very much that that very kindly and tolerant fellow has much of anything to do with the malediction of legal tender. The idea is that on the day that George Bush is to be inaugurated, all the good people of America would simultaneously demonstrate their disgust and their power by, ummm, not shopping. Presumably this would demonstrate to the centers of corporate power that el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

Any reasonably competent economist will explain why putting off your shopping until 21 January is not likely to flip any big corporate wigs, and that it would have no effect at all on your fixed costs. This whole business seems designed to play into the popular fantasy that people can bring about major change by not doing anything (Bartleby, anyone?). It smells to me like a hoax. How does it smell to you?

Update: If you like the idea of a massive boycott and find yourself in the Netherlands, I think that winkelen ought to be permitted.


New photo blog sighting

He has only just begun, but my friend Miladin zvani Jela has put up his new photo blog. Just seven photos for now, and in the future -- at least eight!

Good news and bad

The good news today is that much to relief of my much burdened spouse and her computer, I finally got my machine back from Apple today! And it is humming along in fine repair! The best bit of all is that they do not seem to have destroyed my existing files, which means I will not have to scour the P2P servers for the works of Üstmamó and Brooke Benton.

The bad news is that the domains at blog.hr seem to be unreachable today. Let's hope this is temporary, as nearly all things are.

Flattering as it is

The editors of the Wampum blog are very kind indeed to list East Ethnia as a nominee in their Koufax awards competition for best new blog. But there are so many really outstanding nominees, I do not think I am really in the running. The competition is a great way to find new and interesting things to read, though.

Recommended reading for today

At Osservatorio sui Balcani, the sociologist Aljoša Mimica is interviewed by Ramona Parenzan and Denis Kajić. In Italian, nego šta.

Important decisions made over the weekend

Among the dilemmas we had was deciding who had done the best versions of the works of Serge Gainsbourg. For the song "Un poison violent, c'est ça l'amour" we could not resolve the question of whether the original version stood up to the cover by Eszter Balint. But no dilemma on the topic of "Je t'aime moi non plus." The prize goes to Miss Kittin, for her version with Sven Vath.

Ten letters with onions

One of the happier bureaucratic customs is the postal service's use of stamps to commemorate great individuals, historical moments, places and other cultural icons. There was a time when I would not send a letter without an Otis Redding stamp. But our friend Milena is kind enough to send along a picture of this Bosnian stamp, celebrating a darn good culinary product:

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Other countries should follow suit.

Update: Have a look at the comments, Mr Teekay suspects that the photo may be a hoax. If it is, the postal service would be wise to embrace it.

Update2: Counselor Skelly has evidence that the stamp is real, he provides a link in the comments.

Four more Gmail invites

Sorry for the lack of updates over the weekend, family and fun beckoned too vociferously. I'll have some new items up today. In the meantime, the nice people at Google have given me four more invitations for Gmail to hand out. If you want one, drop me a note at eastethnia at gmail dot com. First come, first serve.